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Words  Finn Mullen  //  Photo Graham Reid

It doesn’t matter how or where you windsurf, there’s always that moment. The sublime state where you are just windsurfing; there’s no noise, chatter or distractions – just sail, board, wind and water – the peace of inner thoughts only on our line through the liquid for moving ahead. Bliss. It’s so calming yet exhilarating it should be illegal ..or a prescribed medicine. Mentally stimulating, physically invigorating. It’s why we windsurf; the state of being that makes us want to participate again and again. ‘Your surfing is finally free when you don’t feel like you need to be showing off or somehow meeting some expectation you have for yourself’. Mark ‘Doc’ Renneker – big wave surfer and physician.

Surfing, windsurfing have at their heart a freedom. We shake off the shackles of land for emotions and movements relatively unbound by moving water and the liberation can transcend all that we do and reach to the heart of who we are. Is windsurfing a sport, yes – a great one, but even the hardest of cynics can’t deny there’s a certain soul to our exertions. 95 % of it is pure physicality but it’s that other 5% of the rich indefinable that goes beyond our straining forearms and seeps deep into our inner.

So why the introspection? It’s because this issue we are tackling the internet – the good and bad and its impact on windsurfing or moreover the soul of windsurfing. Let’s bring it back to Mark ‘Doc’ Renneker’s quote taken from the excellent ‘Travelling free’ article in this month’s issue. Don’t worry what it looks like is Mark’s message, just do it. It’s the antithesis of windsurfing on the internet where, as article author Gilles Calvet puts it – “apart from generating frustration and rewarding the worst kind of vain, narcissistic windsurf personalities, all this posting is chronically over-documenting and therefore diluting the wonderful act of windsurfing. Windsurfing is about that interaction between yourself and the elements: the wind, the wave, the current, the tide, the reef etc…it’s not about you and your beautiful girlfriend posing in front of a go-pro while attempting an air gybe.’’

John Carter augments those thoughts in his funny and thought provoking article, ‘Cybersailing’, writing that -“Rather than soak up a sunset, chat on the beach or even be out there on the water, how many of us are obsessing ourselves with selfies, Facebook posts and Tweeting in exchange for living the moment?’’. Of course apologies if all this seems like a rather meta discussion as this magazine is itself a purveyor of online windsurfing and indeed ironically these very pages provide and survive on a form of windsurfing vanity and narcissism. And let us not forget that the internet has brought a lot of positives to the wider world. It is somewhat blinkered  to complain of saturation when not everyone is so fortunate to enjoy access to the internet yet alone a sport that is in danger of over indulgence on it. One of the most heart warming stories of the internet’s positives is how it can bring education and knowledge resources readily to developing countries and of course we only need to look into very recent history to see how social media has spurned massive political change in some countries and resurrected democracy.

Think of this issue has a more a catalyst in itself to look at how the internet permeates in our lives and keep it in check and a positive force. One of its advantages is greater access to accurate weather forecasting and we interview in this issue Windguru’s founder, Vaclav Hornik, who reveals that up to 1 million people per day visit his site. With improved forecasting our visits to the beach are timed to military precision but I am old enough to remember the days of going to the beach with no forecast and it was still a great day out! If there was no wind we surfed and if there were no waves we rigged up optimistically and spent the day flipping our rigs around dreaming of loops. Ironically these two activities are what most windsurf coaches encourage on no wind days on their courses. No wind or no internet forecast is not a barrier to improvement. Let’s not forget also that in the days when we all just went to the beach, windsurfing events or trips regardless of whether there was any wind or not, there were further benefits. On the no wind days we met other windsurfers, had the craic and banter and did more for our social lives and personality development than staring at any screen ever will. “Scoring waves is just a bonus. I like the random weird things that happen between windsurf sessions’’says the enigmatic former world champion Thomas Traversa in his Mozambique travel story this issue. Embrace that weirdness, talk to your fellow windsurfers on the beach not just online; it’s what keeps you interesting and the rest of the world wondering who we ‘strange’ windsurfers are!

‘’I think it’s good to switch off the phone from time to time and create your own stories and adventures!’’ writes Flo Jung as he tells us in this issue of his off grid adventures in Tasmania. Of course you don’t need to go to the ends of the earth for a digital detox. Many commentators predicted the death of magazines and newspapers as the internet began its march into our lives but perversely the fact that print doesn’t beep, flash, upgrade, reboot, run out of battery, lose signal or charge you for roaming has seen the medium triumph again. And let’s face it, bringing a PC into the toilet just isn’t the same! Perhaps the ultimate answer to balancing the internet in our lives though lies in our cars, trailers, garages or vans and all we really need to survive the onslaught of megabytes is a board and a rig – crank on the downhaul and forget the downloads – just go sail! FM

PHOTO.  The soul of windsurfing lies in the sea not online. Finn Mullen and Colin Harris take in the North Atlantic view.

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